Peter Walker wrote a great article for Mix Mag a while back about the various kinds of club DJs, their clibre and how much they are likely to make. Weve brought this up to date and added our own thoughts and ideas and a lot of other expertise too. Hopefully you will find this interesting. And to our friends around the industry, please feel free to ammend these four main sectors and make this as up to date as possible - for which our readers' genuine thanks.
LOCAL RESIDENT DJ
This is really the new or fledling DJs who have honed and practiced their skills in the bedroom and maybe a few on local radio stations. They may have done a bit of night promoting or perhaps are playing a regular night at the back of a wine bar. At least word gets around. You're pulling in a reguilar stream of punters.
You often play some gigs for free, as it is the best way to get the exposure, as well as expertise. probably making around £125 a night and playing just a couple of times each weekend.
Thats £120 x 50 sets a year = £6,000 a year
Expenses: Like most local DJs, you probably have to buy your own drinks, and at many venues that can be quite expensive, although if you don't have far to travel, the transport costs may be small. Perhaps the biggest area of outlay is music as you need to keep your set content up to scratch.
Don't forget to add something for your clothing, it is tax deductible and looking the part will help you fit in to the venue better and raise your credibility.
- £40 per week for drinks and taxis
- £ 10 per week towards clothing & miscellaneous
- £25 per week on records or downloads
Agent's Fees - Nil (just yet). You should be able to negotiate these gigs direct yourself.
Annual income (before tax): £2,750
This is the next step up where DJs begin to get noticed, either thanks to their style, getting the music right, or more likely, having the right contacts. Press coverage helps a lot, getting your name known by the right agents will get you some good work, but probably not reliable or regularly enough to rely on as a full time job.
Gigs: These are beiginning to pay anywhere from £350–£2000 per gig, depending on how well you have been able to develop your name, your overall profile and how big the clubs are that you are now playing in. Obviously, the smaller size clubs cant afford to pay a DJ too much - it all boils down to what the club can get back , which is invariably going to be on the wet sales - the bar take. You should however now being working at least twice each weekend.
Income - £50,000 a year
Expenses: At this level the club owner or the promoter will probbably be picking up your bar tab and the costs of your appearing - transport and accomodation. Your fee for the gig should therefore be all profit, but you may be having to pay an agent.Youi need to figure on 10% or even 20% of fees.
You may have increased your spending now on more music as you cant afford to be left behind the curve - you need to be ahead of it. You should now be receiving promotion copies and demos of other DJs mixes and they will be free; just keep the record labels up to speed with yoru gigs and cerrer so they are aware of you.
Music costs £50 a week £2500 a year
Extras: smaller label might sign you up for mixing, + £5,000
Annual Income £50,000–£150,000
WARNING. You are now earning a lot from your business and you MUST look at it in a business-like manner. You need to keep records of your earnings and your expenditure. You are likely to have to pay VAT as soon as your ANNUAL earnings look like approaching the VAT threshold, which is currently £85,000 a year. Don't be tempted to not pay over VAT, as the taxman will come down VERY heavilly on you. But dont worry, as VAT is charged on top of your fee, that's why its called Value Added Tax.
Promoters and venues don't mind paying VAT, as they get it back from their own input tax. Similarly, you can set any VAT you have to pay, such as for hotels, records, etc, against the VAT you need to pay over to the VAT man. The best thing to do is have a book-keeper or accountant look after this for you - expect to pay them about £2,000 a year, depending how well you keep the financial records yourself. They will probably be able to save you that anyway as a good accountant will know all the tricks, and how you can save tax.
This takes your career up a notch where you get gigs at festivals and events all over the place. Sadly, they are all some distance from home and you might find that you soon living out of a suitcase or a van and having to fight off groupies and all kinds of invitations and solicitations. The better known you get, the more gigs you get. Better known DJs are now commanding fees of between £2,000 and £5,000 a show and you should be appearing at maybe four gigs a week.
£3,000 x 150 sets a year = £450,000
Expenses: Your agent will probably have got promoters to arrange your air fares,and hotels. Make sure they also have someone get you a work permit or visa where necessary.
Budget to have extra travel fund £10,000
Manager: You need to allow for 25% for your team but that should include a PA.
Extra help at really big gigs. £50,000
Miscellaneous. You need to be making your own music to get really well known internationally and that means investing in some studio time, and possibly extra equipment. You could have big hits too which could give you a very useful extra stream of income from sales, downloads and from media royalties - both radio and TV play. If your tracks are really good and you can get them placed, there could be extra income from film use or TV commercials.
COSTS studio equipment and hire £ 5,000
Annual income (before tax) £600k –£1.25 million
The superstar DJs can fill huge stadiums and their agents and managers have to refuse gigs, to stop them burning out. The fees then go up as the workload goes down, but your health should improve quite a bit by this stage! This is the time that you can benefit from the care and attention you have put into your brand, and extend it out into lots of other avenues, where you will get paid simply from lending your name to concepts, products and ideas.
The real superstar DJs earn from £5m to £20 million a year. Calvin Harris has grossed over around $50 million in each of the last five years.
Gigs: The gigs are now huge and they have to be so the promoter can afford to pay you. But with fees from £10k to £25k just for a couple of hours at the big festivals, you only need work one night a week at the top fee level of say £25,000 to pull in £1.25m a year. £ 1,250,000
Expenses: The promoter will be happy to stump up for all your travel and other expenses and your riders should certainly have more pampering than just a free drinks tab.
Manager. Your entourage has probably grown quite a bit by now. most superstar DJs will have added their own publicity people, plus Social Media experts and all manner of hangers on. The best of these don't come cheap, but they will help you get even more income and be well worth the amount they will cost you, around £100,000.
Extras: Product endorsement revenue can be very lucrative, the fees are always very negotiiable.
Sponsorship & endorsements £500,000
One Nighters £250,000
+Record Sales £100,000
Annual income (before tax) £4m–£50m
The above are all very approximate and are offered just as to a guide of the kind of figures you might expect to earn.